The accidental blockbuster hit, “Sound of Freedom” is becoming a conversation ground for QAnon fans and the people who love to backlash on things that are different from fiction. The movie’s representation of trafficking is different from the trafficking experienced in real life. As a sex and labor trafficking survivor who now serves as a consultant and lived experience specialist on trafficking issues, Jose Lewis Alfaro said, “If I share anything publicly that’s opposing the film I get a lot of name-callings, a lot of lashing back. It’s just really interesting to me how people are more than willing to hear a wealthy rich man’s superhero story and aren’t willing to trust and listen to those who have actually lived through it.”
Alfaro, a trafficking victim, and consultant, has publicly discussed how a man who took him in after his family expelled him as a teenager for being gay trafficked him. “He came across the right person at the right time, and that was me,” he added. He shared, “People have told me ‘You weren’t trafficked, you wanted it, you probably liked it because you’re gay,” he said. “Horrible things like that. I’m seeing the same thing happening speaking out about his film. People are telling me, ‘You’re a trafficker, you’re a predator.’ These are all QAnon conspiracy theories, and people are saying that to people who don’t agree with the film. It’s like, do you even know what I’ve experienced in my lifetime?”
A sizable portion of the right-wing and conspiratorial community has been roused by the movie. QAnon supporters, religious leaders, and a sizable collection of individuals that defy easy classification have all lent their support to the film. While the movie’s supporters claim that it is “raising awareness” of a widespread issue, experts on human trafficking—as well as those who have personally been victims—find that it is actually spreading harmful misconceptions about what trafficking looks like and what survivors need to recover. Since the film’s premiere, survivors who have voiced their criticism have frequently been labeled “pedophiles” or “groomers,” which are terms used to describe the types of persons who once victimized them.
Suamhirs Piraino-Guzman, the chair of the United Nations fund for victims of human trafficking and modern-day forms of slavery, stated that the film “is full of assumptions and a dangerous portrayal of what trafficking is.” He further commented, “We’ve been fighting for 20 years for the appropriate ways to talk about trafficking, the ways we should be centering survivors, in order for us to be moving forward in a way that’s evidence-based, not assumptions based.”
Rafael Bautista, a survivor and labor trafficking expert, said, “I’m going to be honest. I will not watch the movie out of respect for survivors and the movement. It’s harmful and it takes us back many years of work.”